Three days before Pennsylvania's next scheduled execution, an expert witness is raising concerns in federal court in Harrisburg about how the death penalty is carried out.
Dr. David Waisel, an anesthesiologist at Children's Hospital in Boston, testified Monday in a hearing in a 5-year-old class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's execution protocol on behalf of all 200 death-row prisoners.
Waisel questioned the training and experience of members of the "lethal injection team." He also said potentially confusing color codes on the drugs could unnecessarily cause excruciating pain for the inmate.
Fifty-six-year-old Hubert Michael Jr. would be the first person executed in Pennsylvania in 13 years if he's put to death as scheduled Thursday.
"Hubert Michael Jr.'s stay of execution request: Hurricane Sandy, lethal drug mix play role," is Rick Lee's report in the York Daily Record/Sunday News.
If Hubert Lester Michael Jr. gets a stay from his scheduled Nov. 8 execution, it could be related to Hurricane Sandy or to the concoction of chemicals the state has in store to put him to death.
Michael, 56, formerly of Lemoyne, pleaded guilty to the 1993 kidnapping and murder of Trista Eng, 16, of Franklin Township, minutes before his jury was to be selected.
York County Judge John H. Chronister sentenced Michael to die in 1995 after he admitted to shooting the girl three times and dumping her body in state gamelands in Warrington Township.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed Michael's third death warrant last month.
Last week, U.S. Middle District Court Judge John E. Jones III, in response to Michael's request for a stay, ordered the commonwealth and the defense to supply him with arguments on the motion by the close of business Friday.
Both sides requested, and were granted, an extension to file those arguments because of Hurricane Sandy.
The state attorney general's office sought the extension because the storm forced the closure of government offices for two days.
The defense asked for the extension because the storm grounded planes and hindered travel to Greene State Prison in Waynesburg, where Michael is incarcerated.
Jones granted those requests, ordering the arguments to be filed by Tuesday.
Michael also is a party to a 2009 civil action brought by three death row inmates challenging the state's death penalty protocol, specifically the purity, effectiveness and source of the drugs the state uses in lethal injections.